Archive for December, 2010

The Basics of Using Google Alerts to Improve Your Legal Website or Law Firm Blog

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

If you are interested in keeping abreast of the ever-changing laws without emptying your pocketbook, Google Alerts can give you the peace of mind which comes with knowing you are up-to-speed and able to monitor the changing laws, while ensuring your practice is fully covered. Do you ever wonder what others are saying about your firm, or you personally? Using Google Alerts in a savvy and intelligent way can keep you on the professional cutting edge.

Google Alerts are basically set up to monitor content, automatically notifying you when any new content from the Internet matches the pre-set terms you have selected. Google Alerts can be used to find out what others are saying (on the Internet) about you and your firm, to monitor the latest legal news, to monitor the status of a bill, and even to stay informed as to what your competition is up to.

How Are Notifications Received?

There are several ways you can receive Google Alerts, the most common one being through your e-mail. You can also receive Google Alerts as a web feed, or even have them prominently displayed on your iGoogle page. There are essentially six types of alerts to receive when content on the Internet matches your particular search terms and the alerts you have created.  You can set your Google Alerts to the default, which is everything, or the entire web, through the Google search engine. Secondly, you can set your settings to News, meaning you will only receive updates when matching content makes it into the top ten results of a Google News Search. Third down the line is the “web” setting, which allows you to receive updates only when new web pages appear in the top twenty results for a Google Web search, and fourth is the blog setting-you will only get updates when content which matches your search terms appears in a blog which resides in the top ten results of a Google Blog Search. The video setting will allow you to receive updates only when matching content appears in the top ten results of a Google video search, and finally, you can set your alters to “groups” which will only send updates whenever matching content appears in the top fifty results of a Google Groups search.

Next, you can choose the frequency of your Google Alerts, meaning you can have Alerts sent to you once a day, once a week, or in real time (or close to it), as things happen. For many subjects or issues, onece a day or once a week will be plenty, most especially if you have chosen a top which receives tons of hits. If you are setting an Alert for something which happens rarely, but you want to know as soon as it does happen, set your Google Alert to “as it happens.”  Don’t get too overwhelmed with the different settings; after you play with them a bit you will easily find the one which works best for you and your specific needs.

How Complicated is Setting Up Google Alerts?

Don’t panic, setting up Google Alerts is fairly simple. You must first go to From here you will pick your search terms; for instance, you might choose Texas DWI Law, then you will use the drop down boxes to select the type of alert, frequency, length, and where to have them sent. Although it may take a little trial and error to get Google Alerts set up exactly like you want them to be, it will definitely be worth it once you have everything just like you want it.

Why Should I Bother?

Google Alerts can be an incredibly powerful tool for lawyers–Google travels around the web literally sucking up insanely huge amounts of data from across the globe, while you work and sleep, then analyzes those sites for relevant information according to you search terms, and sends you an e-mail with the results.

Where Do I Start?

If you are unsure which search terms to use to begin with, first of all put in your own name/firm’s name as a keyword so you will always be up to speed on what the rest of the world is saying about you. If you want to know what your competition is up to, put in their names next. You can easily monitor news about legislation or regulation in specific practice and business areas by setting keywords for those subjects. You can set your Google Alerts to look for proprietary data of your most significant clients—you might be surprised at how often such data shows up in blogs across the Internet. So, if one of your clients sells a highly-recognized product, you can keep up with what’s being said about it, or even watch for knockoffs. You could enter a search term such as “electronic evidence,” which would allow you and your firm to keep up with developments which are highly relevant to your practice. Think of terms which might render some surprising information regarding a pending litigation your law firm is handling, think of a place you want to monitor, such as an office you might have in another state or country.

While it’s true that your Google Alerts can be somewhat erratic at times, meaning you may not get everything you should—or thing you should—and sometimes there may seem to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to why you receive what you receive. Even so, Google Alerts is the best thing going for tracking news specific to your firm and your practice areas.

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More In-Depth Ways to Use Google Alerts for Your Law Firm Website or Legal Blogs

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Assuming you are already using Google Alerts—and presumably already loving it, there are some easy searches you can run that you may not have thought of which can give you some amazing results in your inbox each day. Additionally, if you want more accurate results from your Google Alerts, you will need to utilize some of the advanced search options or search operators in order to narrow your searches.

Advanced Search Options

In other words, if you are interested in receiving the latest legislation regarding DWI in your state, you might type in DWI+Texas+legislation. Enclosing your search results in quotes, and using the minus sign (-) to filter out unwanted results can also give you much more precise Google Alerts results. On each search term you will set how often you want the alert to be sent, so for topics you want to keep an eye on, but are not critical, selecting “once a week,” may be appropriate. For topics which you need to be apprised up the second after they happen, then you will, of course, set “as it happens,” for frequency. Many people simply have a blanket setting of once per day for everything, however this can potentially give you many legal alerts you don’t need or want.

When setting how you would like to receive your alerts, you can check e-mail or RSS feed; if you choose e-mail, you will receive a separate e-mail for each alert you create, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed in Google Reader rather than e-mail. You will next need to tell Google exactly which information to include in the search, whether news, blogs, web, comprehensive, video or groups. Depending on your search terms you may want to only search in blogs, or news, or you may simply use “comprehensive” for most of your search terms.

What Search Terms Should I Use?

First and foremost, do a “vanity search” for your own name, your firm’s name, or your blog’s name in order to find out when your name or your blog is mentioned by someone else. You can set it up as “Richardson Law Firm,” Robert+Richardson+Lawyer, or even Richardson’s Legal Blog. If your name or your firm’s name is fairly common, put it in quotes. You can track incoming links to your legal website or legal blog by inserting your blog’s URL which can track links from other sites to your own site. Use the highest URL level where you have content for your site links, and if you want to track incoming links to a specific post, enter the post’s exact URL.

Check Your Own Content for Plagiarism by Others

Sometimes content can be “stolen” unintentionally, or sometimes content can be stolen using robots which strip out links so the post remains primarily text. You can set your search terms for “specific phrase from your content” which will immediately tell you if someone else is using that amazing phrase you thought came straight from your own creative mind. Unless your content is, in fact highly creative and original, it is likely you will receive lots of alerts regarding the portions you are having checked.

Check for Your Favorite Topics

If you are currently working on a specific brief, or a particular case, you can set search terms for the topic—you will soon realize what a great way this can be to research a topic and see articles and posts where others are talking about the subject as well. Narrow and refine your search topic through the use of (+,-,””, or, not) or through search operators (link:, site:)

As long as you don’t forget that Google Alerts is neither 100% foolproof or reliable, and that it only sends alerts when new pages enter into the top searches, you should greatly enjoy the results your receive from Google Alerts. You may also want to try out Yahoo’s similar service, called, appropriately enough, Yahoo! Alerts.

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Turning Your Legal Blog into a Rainmaker 24/7

Monday, December 6th, 2010

If you have been an attorney for any length of time, you are probably very familiar with the term “rainmaker” as well as understanding exactly what it takes to be a rainmaker in the legal profession (profile the ideal client, develop a strategy, identify what clients need, ask for client’s opinions and make them feel like part of the team, communicate effectively, ask open-ended questions, listen to the answer, attend trade shows your clients might attend, etc. etc.) Perhaps you haven’t really considered, however, in our new digital age, how to be a successful rainmaker online. It has been theorized that twenty percent of legal firm lawyers bring in 80 percent of the business. With the Internet and social media rapidly turning into the primary path for people to find lawyers and legal information, the ability to “make it rain,” in your online presence, can be a mighty ability indeed.

The Importance of Your Brand

Although you may not even realize it, the most effective brands on television are not wishy-washy about what they do—we all know that Snickers satisfies, right? Many attorneys attempt to be all things to all people, which, if your firm really can practice every single type of law, good for you. But, even if it happens to be true, advertising your firm as a jack-of-all-trades can make it next to impossible to get quality online attention. Find your specific niche, then go after it, remember the rule of online marketing which is to market specifically, but practice broadly. Who is your ideal client? Answer that question, then go after that ideal client through your online presence, (website, social media), with a vengeance.

Your Online Profile—More Critical Than You Think

You probably already know this, but the legal world is unbelievably competitive, and, really, most people just don’t want to hire an attorney. What they do want to hire is someone they can trust and respect, both as their legal counsel and as a human being. If you are being diligent about maintaining an active online presence in the world of social media, you are promoting personal relationships with the people who will be your future clients and refer you to others—after all, isn’t that the whole idea of rainmaking? Building your online presence can include following and “friending” other people, then creating the most useful, high-quality content which your own followers will find applicable to their particular legal situations. Reading and commenting on content created by others is nearly as useful, although it will take time and energy on your part.

Ensure the Content You Create is Extremely Targeted

You are an attorney, thus a professional; you know important and serious things, and you write about issues which have value and importance to others. If you make sure your online content is created with your ideal client in mind, social medial will allow you to spread that content virally, making sure it will be passed over time and time again. When considering legal issues, the consumer generally wants to read something like “Seven Tips To Remember When Choosing a Criminal Lawyer,” or “How to Budget for Your Pending Litigation;” in other words, they want well-organized lists which gives them something solid and real to take away.

Try Moving Your Social Media Online Conversations Offline

If you happen to engage with somebody interesting online, what should you do next? Exactly what you would do if a particularly interesting client was in your lobby, and you struck up a conversation. Set up a phone call, breakfast, or lunch to enable you to get to know them better in the “real world.” Online connections are fun, sure, but it’s the offline connections that lead to business, which in turn leads to revenue.

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up….

If you don’t already have a legal newsletter—get one. The monthly information you send to your connections can be invaluable in your quest for repeated contacts. Those who know about the rule of sales are aware that it generally takes seven points of contact before a person is ready to buy your goods or services. Social media allows you to pass along articles, comment on activities which your potential clients may be involved in, or just maintain friendships. Try to make sure your overall legal marketing plan is always hovering in the background of your mind so that your social media can fit into it nicely. Take the time to help others and offer advice when you are online, and it will come back to you many times over. If you praise the work of others, it is likely you will get praise back. Even online, the golden rule is alive and well….and extremely applicable in the context of social media.

Becoming a Rainmaker through social media is a process, and the process will not work for you if you only log in once a month. Do your best to spend at least twenty minutes per day building your online presence; set measurable goals and follow up, and the rain will surely come.

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Social Media + Search Engine Marketing = a Successful Law Firm Marketing Plan

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Most legal firms are well aware that social media has made dramatic changes to old-school marketing techniques; in the past you may have felt like your marketing efforts boiled down to your lone voice shouting out to an ever-increasingly distracted crowd, attempting to entice them to your firm. While there are some similarities between old-school marketing and the newer social media marketing, social media marketing takes away your lone little voice, replacing it with people who are telling others about your firm; they’ve been there, done that, loved it and want to pass along the news. Social media marketing, can take your law firm to heights you never even imagined in the grand marketing scheme.

Plan for Success

To make sure your social media search marketing efforts are highly successful, you must begin with an overall plan. Ask yourself who your audience is, and what your primary objectives for your marketing campaign are. Once you determine you audience and objectives, think long and hard about what strategy you will use to achieve your objectives, and what tactics will make your strategy a rousing success. Never forget that the goal of social media marketing is to influence potential clients to use your legal firm, therefore your goals should include increasing the number of connections, comments and re-postings.

Give to Get

Social Media Marketing requires that you encourage people to your site and your services rather than browbeating them to purchase. Offering free reports which give great, useful information is a great motivator as is constantly updating your website with information your potential clients will absolutely want to read and changing your blog frequently using the same criteria. Remember that simply taking your “regular” marketing or advertising campaign and putting it into Facebook will likely backfire, even possibly getting you banned should your messages be too overtly commercialized.

Always Be Upfront and Honest…But Realize You Can Never Absolutely Control the Message

You always want to strive to create honest yet professional social media to ensure that you don’t alienate the very people you are attempting to establish relationships with. In turn, your satisfied readers will tell others about your social media leading to excellent, yet responsible marketing strategies. Never lie or come across as fake; some examples of this include starting fake blogs which are populated only by employees. This type of practice can permanently harm your legal firm’s vital reputation.  In old-school advertising you were totally in charge and could control the message completely. In our new social media marketing world, however once something hits the Web, people are free to adapt, change and interpret as they see fit—making honesty on your part even more important. Even though you need to protect your brand to the extent possible, you must know that controlling information on the Web can be next to impossible.

SEO….Yes, Again!

You may have the hottest legal website around, have a legal blog that is truly unparalleled, or sending out the greatest Tweets imaginable, if no one knows you exist, none of these things will matter at all. Search engine optimization is key to your success, and you must give it the seriousness it deserves. Remember that three out of four adults in the United States use the Internet for legal advice and information—only six years ago that was hardly the case. Today’s Internet is the biggest source of legal information in the United States, leading the number of people who currently ask friends and family for legal advice in a decline of over 35%. Think about it—why ask anyone else for advice, when Google is only a few keystrokes away? This means that the challenge of having your website and blog found, easily and consistently is an incredibly important one, and legal SEO is, at the end of the day, what makes it happen.

Don’t Forget….

You should encourage participation and feedback from your clients; if a client posts something about your legal firm on Twitter or on your website, do your best to get back to them with a response, letting your clients know you really are listening. This fairly simple exercise in paying attention can build your client relationships in incredible ways. Although you must post on a regular basis, don’t over-post. If you truly have nothing new and valuable to share with potential clients, then don’t share at all as it could cost you followers and fans in the long run.

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Ethical Link Building for Your Law Firm Website

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

There are all sorts of ways you can build links to your legal website or blog, however some of them are ethical and some of them are clearly not. As a legal firm, your highest priority must be to ensure that your link building—along with everything else connected to your website or blog—are absolutely ethical and professional. Anything but ethical behavior regarding your Internet presence can quickly lose your firm the credibility it’s worked so hard to obtain. Have you ever wondered how, once your site, along with every other competing legal website has been optimized online, the search engines determine whose site has the most authority, therefore should receive a higher rank? The answer is really pretty simple: inbound links. It’s just not enough anymore to write content, no matter how great it is. You, as the attorney, must always ask yourself whether any particular instance is a great link opportunity just waiting to happen. There are several different methods for link building which are ethical and not too difficult to boot.

Legal Blog Comments

Hopefully your law firm has jumped wholeheartedly onto the legal blog bandwagon. Legal blogs are an excellent way to increase traffic to your firm’s website, as well as a great way to provide information and education to prospective clients. If your firm has its own legal blog, then you are likely reading other legal blogs from your competitors. While there, making comments can offer an opportunity to build links to your own site, as well as helping you become well-known for your particular niche. Indirectly this can bring more visitors to your own legal website, readers to your legal blog, and more links from all the people who like your site or blog.

Search-Oriented Link Building

Newer websites will most often carry little weight with the search engines when you are talking about link building, so it’s a good idea to prioritize and focus your precious time and energy first on your older sites. Keeping your older sites fully optimized ensures the traffic keeps rolling in, then you can slowly begin to work on newer sites as you have the time. Many SEO experts believe that links from .edu and .gov domains tend to be much more valued by search engines. Think hard about how you can get a link to a school or university. Natural links are always the best—if people are linking to your legal website because your content is stellar, that’s a very good sign, and one that search engines will sit up and take notice of. While paid links have their place, they can also get you penalized for spam, so make sure you are fully cognizant of which paid links are good, and which are not.

Article Marketing and Directory Submissions

A method which has recently become popular is to write a short article regarding the topic you are trying to promote, then publish it on a major article directory site. Those who are actively seeking content for their sites download the articles they like, publish them to their own website, and give you a link in return—simple, yet effective. Before article marketing became popular, the best link-building method was through directories, yet plenty of these directories became nothing more than link farms and took a sharp nosedive. There are still directories on the Internet which are credible and could be worth submitting to, just make sure you differentiate the credible from the not-so-credible.

Press Releases or Guest Posting

If you need to generate lots of high-quality links in a short space of time, try writing a press release, then publishing it through one of the sites which typically handles press release distribution. You will effectively gain a link from every site which publishes your press release. Guest posting is similar to article marketing, in that you create specific content, then offer it up to another website or blog in your legal niche, and ask the owner to publish it—effective and a great way to build your own profile.

As you are well-aware, the legal industry is an extremely competitive one; effective yet ethical link building requires you to understand how to deliver your results online month after month, remaining high in the search engine rankings without compromising your quality or professionalism. With a little practice, link building can be done successfully—yet ethically, allowing your law firm to greatly increase their legal website building.

SEO and Social Media Marketing – What Your Law Firm Needs to Know

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

As you are probably already aware, law firm marketing has made a concerted shift toward online avenues in the past few years, the result being that the cost of online advertising has skyrocketed. The simple rules of supply and demand, plus the greatly increased cost have pushed many smaller law firms completely out of the market, while the larger law firms may be vastly overpaying for their own online marketing. Considering that some law firms who were spending as much as $5 per click for Pay-Per-Click ads just to claw their way to the top spot on Google, are now paying an astonishing $15 (and more) per click. If you do the math, and figure that the average online conversion rate is a paltry 1-2%, and that a firm such as the one described above could conceivably receive anywhere from 300-1000 clicks per day ($4,500 per day, $135,000 per month) then you get a good idea of the enormous amounts of money currently being spent on legal online advertising. The same law firms which are spending these big bucks for PPC ads, are likely also paying large amounts to advertise in legal online directories, which have been found to be semi-effective at best.

Set Yourself Apart From the Crowd with Great Legal SEO

So, what’s a legal firm to do, you may ask? If dedicating massive amounts of financial resources to get your firm noticed online is not the way to go, then just what should you be doing? The ultimate goal–and one you should never, ever forget when designing your online presence–is to set yourself apart from the crowd. Get yourself noticed, not because you spent the most money for online advertising, but because you are an amazing, cutting edge law firm who rightfully should be noticed. In order to be noticed for all the right reasons, your first line of business should probably be to completely re-evaluate your marketing campaign, putting many more eggs in your social media marketing and SEO baskets than before. Once you are firmly established as a legal firm who generates useful, high quality content for its potential clients, posting it on a blog and sharing with the social world gives you a personal connection to your visitors, inspiring them to contact your firm rather than your competitor’s when they need help. In order to ensure you get the very most from your online marketing campaign, you must, of course, utilize SEO in every conceivable way. Proper SEO will get your legal website, articles, blog, right up to the top of the search engines, increasing visibility and exposure, thus conversion and, finally, revenue.

The Cost of Social Media and Law Firm SEO

If you haven’t already figured it out, the cost of social media marketing and search engine optimization are a mere fraction of what Pay-Per-Click, television commercials, online legal directories or print ads will cost you. As a large law firm you could easily be paying $100,000 per month on this type of conventional advertising, while a social media and law firm SEO retainer can cost you from ten to fifteen thousand per month—and achieve exactly the same results. Once your website and online content has built up its rankings, the marketing budget can be cut even further.

Does Social Media Marketing Really Work?

If you are skeptical about the power of social media marketing, remember that social media gives us the opportunity to be a part of a community which allows us, if we listen closely, to learn things regarding our market we may not already know. In the quest to establish your authority and promote your legal brand, you can make valuable contributions to the social conversations, quickly becoming recognized as an authority on your particular specialization. When you are seen in many places on the internet, there is a greater likelihood people will follow links back to your website where they can learn more about your particular expertise.

Social media has completely changed the legal marketing game, making your law firm more accessible to your clients and potential clients as well as allowing you to successfully engage the community regarding particular areas of law. Remember that even though your time is limited by your caseload, social media gives you the kind of virtual presence that is literally 24/7. Many law firms hesitate to jump into the social media waters due to privacy concerns, however you should carefully balance these concerns with the incredible benefits you can reap from an active social media online presence.

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Law Firm Blog Maintenance Tools and Content Management Software

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Since you already (hopefully) have your legal blog up and running and are reaping the rewards from a job well-done, don’t forget the importance of constantly maintaining your legal blogs. You can choose to update your blog or blogs the old-fashioned way—by hand, one at a time, or you can use a tool like, which allows you to update them all at once, although you must compose a blog post to do so.  You could also use RSS, which stands for Real Simple Syndication and essentially allows you to find or create an RSS feed which updates your blog in a more mechanical way, through an RSS URL feed, which feeds data you have chosen as content you would like to see on your blog as updates to your blogs. This method does definitely lack the personal touch, but can be somewhat effective. Beyond these two methods, there are plenty of maintenance that should be done on a regular basis to ensure your blog sites remain worry-free and exceptionally effective.

WordPress Applications Which Need Regular Checkups

WordPress can be an absolutely fantastic for your legal blogging, as it is generally full of features, fast, and works flawlessly—at least the majority of the time. Sometimes, however, we human beings play around with the program, installing themes or plug-ins, which can eventually make WordPress go crazy. To ensure your blog problems don’t have a runaway, make sure you do regular check-ups and maintenance such as:

  • Check your feeds—they can be broken without you even knowing it, so test them well.
  • Contact pages can be broken as well without your knowledge—check them often.
  • When you set up your blog WordPress automatically fills in the About section. Specific themes may display your About section on the main page by default, so make sure the information provided is always updated and filled out to avoid seeming unprofessional.
  • Make sure you check the bottoms of every page as they can appear to be working properly while hiding an error at the end.
  • Adsense Ads can confuse GoogleBot, causing it to show irrelevant ads on your blog which can be extremely detrimental; look into some of the plug-ins out there for targeting Adsense.
  • Be sure to check your link bar for broken links; you don’t want dead links sitting in your sidebar wasting space—and people’s precious time.

WordPress Plug-ins Which Can Help Your Legal Blog

Once your law firm’s blog has been up and running, for months, or even years, it is a sure bet that some of your links will be broken. Use Broken Link Checker as a plug in on WordPress to automatically find broken links, saving you time. Word Press Antivirus checks your theme for any lurking malicious code; you can easily enable a daily scan to ensure nobody is able to insert malicious code. Akismet is a spam-fighting tool for WordPress which can totally eradicate spam on your blog, and Redirect can help you redirect (hence the name) all URLs to the settings of your choice, thus preventing Google from thinking your site has duplicate content. Finally, the WP Security Scan can check to make sure your WordPress installation is secure by looking at several different factors including password strength and database security.

A Few More Tips for Legal Blog Maintenance

Blog maintenance also includes refreshing your header banner and site images on a regular basis, at least monthly, in order to keep the site looking new for your visitors. We humans tend to pay more attention to any site if we have the perception it is different, even slightly. Check your sidebar links for dead links, making sure it remains fresh and relevant, and that the sites you link to are current and are consistently providing content of quality which you support. Your content pages are essential to the success of your website so should be consistently updated with quality content, making them valuable to your readers and potential clients. Make sure your About page is consistently updated with content and photos. Perhaps someone in your firm has recently won a high profile case, or your firm is adding a specialty, these things definitely need updating. Consider enhancing and expanding your top five blog posts of the month; look over them and look for any outdated information, or take direction from the questions or comments your received on a particular blog. All of these tips, if done on a regular basis can ensure that your legal blog remains high in the search engine rankings, bringing traffic, thus revenue to your law firm.